Why Your Company Should Embrace Internal Hackathons

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4 years ago, I attended my first hackathon. I’ve been addicted ever since. For the uninitiated, hackathons are events where technology people get together and intensively collaborate on projects over a specific period of time (typically around 24-48 hours). During internal hackathons, a company blocks off a certain period of time to host a hackathon only for their employees. To some more traditional technology companies this may sound a bit scary – “what about the lost productivity?!? And deadlines, we have deadlines!”. Hosting an internal hackathon does take some sacrifice, but I wanted to share some reasons why your company should embrace the idea.

Innovate and Inspire

Did you know the Facebook ‘like button’ started as a hackathon project? Hosting an internal hackathon is a great way to cultivate innovative ideas within your company. Dwolla hosted an internal hackathon in June where one of the projects was a ‘culture book’ that serves as a reference for new employees joining the team. An innovative approach of what typically is considered an HR-task. These projects and ideas don’t end when the hackathons are over either. They inspire the company about the possibilities ahead.

Teamwork FTW

Often times, employees or teams find themselves siloed off from other parts of the company. An internal hackathon is a great way to connect parts of the company that may never work on a project together otherwise. What happens when a recruiter and engineer work together? What about HR and a designer? You may be surprised with the results.

Retain and Recruit

Every six weeks, Chartbeat has a hack week where employees can work on any project they want. Letting employees explore their own ideas is a great way to make sure they’re being professionally challenged and rewarded by their work. Of course, Chartbeat may be a bit of an extreme, but even hosting annual or biannual hackathons show employees and potential employees that you value them beyond just being “cogs in the machine”.

Hackathons have changed my life, and I believe they have the power to change companies. Wherever you’re at, or whatever you do, I hope I’ve convinced you to give an internal hackathon a try.